“Artists are people who are not at all interested in the facts—only in the truth. You get the facts from outside. The truth you get from inside.” --Ursula K. LeGuin

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Peacock and The Frog

Dear Writers,

Perhaps you can relate:

A long time ago I did a visualization to find my totem animal.

In my mind’s eye, I traveled down a path and stopped before bushes that rustled telling me that something was hiding within them. I coaxed, expecting to see some cute little furry animal, “You can come out now."

To my surprise, the animal that strutted out of the bushes was a peacock.

A male peacock in all his finery.

Fast forward: We bought a house in Riverside California. When my little daughter and I visited the empty house, I looked up through a clerestory window, and there on the roof was a peacock.

I figured it was an omen—my first encounter with my peacock.

We lived up a hill from a park, and he was a frequent visitor. From our roof, he could survey the countryside.

A few years later we bought property in Marcola Oregon, and upon visiting the property, what did we see?

A peacock!

 Later on, we would see him running with the wild turkeys.

And then last week I visited our new house, and looking out the bedroom window, what did I see on the fence?

 A peacock!

I couldn’t believe it. I was yelling for the dog to come see.

In the sleepy little town of Junction City Oregon, in the middle of winter, in a neighborhood, I never in my wildest dreams would think I would see a peacock, but I did.

Is this telling me something or what?

If I roll back the time to shortly after my first encounter with the visionary peacock, I visited the bushes again and asked the peacock, “Why do you stay hidden here in the bushes?”

“Because,” he answered, “Here I am the only peacock.”

It’s time for me to join the other peacocks.  In light of this, I am publishing my Island book on Kindle Select. Just a tad bit more editing and it's good to go. No peacocks in it.  It’s not about the peacock. The peacock is grace, vision, a kick in the pants to get with it. I don't know why he is associated with houses, perhaps because I have houses and writing mixed up with each representing significant potential.

I accept his visitation with gratitude.

We saw no peacocks during the year we spent in Hawaii. That year was a hiding-away place, not a be-seen place. It was a time of contemplation, of re-grouping, of finding oneself.

 The peacocks we saw on an earlier trip to Hawaii lived in a fabulous hotel, wandering in and out at will, meandering over expensive carpeting and roosting in the beams of the amazing foyer.  No hiding away for those peacocks—and they had a person to clean up after them.

I wonder what it would take to be the most read book on the month on Kindle. Most read books receive a bonus, and that's the reason I'm asking. I don’t believe it is as strange as seeing three peacocks associated with three new houses.

My book will be called The Frog’s Song. “The frog calls the rain that settles the dust for our journey.”

The Frog’s Song is about the voyage.  It’s about time away to contemplate, to learn that sequestering oneself off on some remote tropical island, living in the jungle off the grid, and down a mile and a half of lava encrusted road gives you time to find yourself.  Sometimes one must go off and regroup, and to learn to forge ahead. Pele called this little family of one husband, one daughter one seven-month –old grandson, two dogs and two cats, and one narrator, to the island, and then, in her wisdom, she kicked us off.

(And the Coqui frogs sang to us, and called the rain.)

P.S. About Kindle Select:

Kindle Select has done a tricky thing. They are paying authors for pages read, not for just having someone purchase the book. Authors of long books were complaining—they spent years writing, and then to be in competition with some little 99-page booklet didn’t seem fair. Thus Kindle Select is implementing the #pages-read policy.

Gone are the days when a writer can say, “It doesn’t matter if you read my book, just buy it.”

Thursday, January 5, 2017

You Can''t Teach Writing

That’s a load of crap.

Like no one could show Michaelengo how to hold a chisel? No one ever told him what to do if that chisel slipped?

They can teach the mechanics, yep, how to hold chisels, pencils, how to use “lay” and “lie.” What they can’t teach is heart, how to go deep within and tell the truth, how to find that still small space where secrets lie and stories worth telling percolate.

It’s  like “The Secret,” part of the equation is missing.

But to say, “You Can’t Teach Writing is a cliché’. And too often we let cliché’s roll off our tongue without thought. Why is the world are writer’s offices lined with books on writing?

Because they believe in their hearts they are writers, but they want to know how to do it.

I remember hearing about an author at a Writer’s Conference who asked his audience how many wanted to be writers.

Well, that’s why they were there, to rub shoulders with the greats in the hopes something would rub off on them. Most hands went up.

 “Then what in the hell are you doing here?’ he said. “Go home and write.” (Writer’s swear a lot. It drives us to it.)

We all loved him for saying that.

What he didn’t say was, don’t listen to all these blow-hards, who will tell you how to do it. They will tell you again and again what you must do to write a query letter. How to write a proposal. How hard it is to get published. “Knock our socks off,” they say, like we aren’t trying. We’ve heard that drivel so much we want to puke.

We go to conferences for some meat. The problem is it doesn’t exist, except as a pin-point of light somewhere beneath the raging tiger within us that is obscuring the light. And they don’t know the magic any more than we do.

Except, we know it when we see it.

That author might have said, “Go home and get real. Write until the tiger is exhausted, and when he is gone or asleep, there you will find your light. There a writer will be born.

Maybe you will be published. Maybe you won’t. But you will find yourself in the process.

That’s the reason we write.

I’ve seen it over and over, at workshops, seminars events such as I recently attended with #Tony Robbins. A person will present a mundane problem like their diet—although that is often not mundane, but it’s not the problem. Something else is.

But we are embarrassed to rush in with “I will never do it because I’m not smart enough, I have a no talent. I’m not good enough.”

Most everybody thinks that.

"All I want is love,” some pious souls say.

While raging beneath the surface is a raging tiger.

What is the first thing you can remember?

Go there. Write about it. That’s a good place to begin…

P.S. Considering using Kindle Select as a publishing venue? Check in for the next post.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

What Lies Beneath?

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of being bombarded at the beginning of the year by goal-setting smart-alecs.  Like I’m supposed to have someone tell me to set goals.

I’ll set my own goals, thank you very much. And where in the hell did New Year’s resolutions come from anyway? They irritate me every New Year, and I’ve seen a few years roll by my dust bin.

The world can make you feel guilty about most anything. That’s the culture we live in--guilt, fear, and intimidation.

So, guys are we going to take it lying down, or are we going to claim our own lives, live on our own terms, and cut out the crap?

When you figure out how to do it tell me, but that is my goal. It has been for a while, and it will continue to be. And if I have an attitude then so be it.

Julie Cameron would say to put my gripes in my morning pages—that device where you write out the shit so you can get onto the business of writing. But we’re writers here. We don’t have to soft-soap anything. We know there will be days when we want to quit, when we feel like dog doo, and when the world outside our window looks like a tsunami ran down the streets and lapped against the side of our houses. But then the sun comes out. The world glows.  We are wrought with new ideas, even standing in line at the Post Office becomes an adventure. We hear new nuances, snippets of conversation. We sing the song of life.  We become lost in the lyrics.

“Why do I care if I make a fool out of myself?” Wrote the Disney Imagineer Don Hahn,  “It’s called living, and while we are yet alive shouldn’t we do things that living people do? So embrace your inner idiot.”

I’m taking incremental steps toward reaching the goal of living life on my own terms. Jonathan Mead, a fellow in Portland Oregon, writes a blog “Paid to Exist.” where he touts the same thing. See, there are a lot of us out there.

As I was leaving for the #Tony Robbins event I grabbed a novel to read on the plane. It was #Rosamunde Pilcher’s #The Shell Seekers. I had already read it three times, but I figured since I hadn’t yet achieved her eloquence, I would read it another time. I wanted to visit Scotland and smell the wild Thyme again. I wanted to follow Penelope Keeling through her life again. So I read it a fourth time, lovely, lovely Pilcher.

And yesterday, I picked up one of Pilcher's old books. The opening line didn’t have it. It sounded ordinary in comparison to her writing I had just read. It was a revelation.

People do not spring to life fully formed, they develop, they hone their skills. That is what Pilchers’s Publisher told her, that she hadn’t delivered the goods yet. And so she asked what he wanted. “A  Big fat book for women. A good read. Something to get the teeth into. And something, above all, that tapped into the life and the experiences of her generation.”

So she delivered the goods, and The Shell Seekers hit the New York Times best seller list.

Okay, let’s get crackin’

Live long and prosper and follow me. Join the party.